Book Review – Ranger Martin and The Alien Invasion

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASIONI am extremely honoured to have a chance to read and review Jack Flacco‘s zombie sequel, Ranger Martin and The Alien Invasion. Not only do I respect Flacco’s dedication to his passion for the genre subject with all the questions and theories he posts and interacts with his audience on his blog, but it is always great to support a Canadian writer – especially a local one such as Flacco.

Let me begin by admitting that I have not read the first book in what I hope will be a series – Ranger Martin and the Zombie Apocalypse – but as promised by the author, this October 21st release can be a stand-alone read. Which it most definitely was.

Will I go back, however, to read the first novel? You bet.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am big on character development. The protagonist, Ranger Martin, is one of many characters that fulfills this need of mine. Both humorous and dark, I couldn’t help but to imagine a future cowboy (mixed with the likes of Indiana Jones and Han Solo – if only Harrison Ford was young enough to star as Ranger Martin should this ever hit the big screen), not just on a mission to protect those that have become family to him, but to kill every single zombie on this planet.

Family is a key word here. Through all the mayhem and chaos – my personal favourite is  about the relationships formed (and sometimes it is a brief relationship before one loses a new connection – a higher trend in such a world). Ranger Martin’s ‘sidekicks’ are sometimes anything but sidekicks as some (a.k.a. Matty, a fiery teen) are just as gutsy as he is when it comes to crushing zombie skulls. I’m looking forward to reading the first book so i can witness some of the early events responsible for building these relationships.

The added twist, which makes this zombie genre unique, is the introduction to aliens with a bit of government/military conspiracy in the mix. The right formula for a little more chaos.

For anyone looking for an entertaining and fun read (though with intense and graphically gory scenes as well), this book will not disappoint. Flacco’s writing style is best suited for both young adults and adults who love to geek out over the horror, light-sci-fi, fantasy type genre. The Ranger Martin series would also be ideal for a graphic novel.

Not our last camping trip of the season… if you can believe it!

With the lack of camping trips this season, my husband was getting pretty desperate. I admit I missed camping too but I can survive one year where we take a bit of a break from it.

Still, he pushed and pushed. And we fought about it as well. In the end, we came to a happy resolution by meeting in the middle.

He wanted to go somewhere about an hour away. I had no time to prep. So… we tried out this independent campground just 10 minutes away. It’s not a provincial park but had amazing hiking trails surrounding the campground.

All were happy and I’m glad we did it. It also gave us a chance to try dehydrated eggs (with grass-fed, hormone-free, anti-biotic free bison sausages).

deydrated eggsdehydraged eggs and bison sausagesNo, we weren’t aiming to create a gourmet meal here. There is hopes to do a portage/canoe trip where we’ll have to be somewhat creative with how we eat since we won’t have the opportunity to lug around a cooler. We’ve managed in the past – it’s do-able if we only go for two nights, preferably near the end of the summer when it’s not as hot.

The only problem is most of the dehydrated food packages is really high in either carbs or sugar. Which is exactly why our only option so far was to purchase these dehydrated eggs. The verdict? Edible but of course, no where near as good as actual eggs. :)

hiking - wildflowershikingOf course, we made sure we went on a lovely hike. For the entire morning, it rained. Which was fine. We slept in and had a very late brunch in the trailer.

By the time the sky cleared, we were ready to stretch our legs. Plus, Hobbes needed to burn off some energy. We hiked for an hour – and got our fill of fresh air.

new toquecamping fashionWe were only semi-prepared for the cold. The forecast showed and even lower dip for the temperature that night. While we brought along a of of fleece tops and bottoms, we didn’t have anything for our heads or Chaeli’s hands.

So, we took a quick trip to Sails and took advantage of their 50% toque sale (we were only 15 minutes away from one of the locations).

There was a Dollarama next to it so we picked up some 3-in-1 gloves for Chaeli.

campfire steaksOne way I was convinced to go camping on such a cold, rushed weekend… witness the above photo. This picture does not do these steaks any justice. I bought these earlier that day at Whole Foods. Yes, I paid a mint for each. They are hormone and anti-biotic free. And about 2 inches thick!

I’ve had some pretty seriously good steaks in my life. But only a couple stand out. The one was on our last Princess Cruise when we paid cover charge to dine in the Crown Grill Restaurant. The second would have been the Tomahawks we bought as part of my dad’s Father’s Day gift.

These recent steaks would be amongst the top three. Every bite had an amazing flavour. Well worth the money.

hobbes the dogAnd yes, even Hobbes got some of Doug’s scraps with his dinner.

It was a nice little get-away, once again, in our little trailer. And as the title of this post suggests, it’s not our last camping trip. We’ll be needing more winter gear as we head up further north in a few weeks to camp by Georgian Bay. What? You say we’re crazy?

No, let me correct you. My husband is crazy. We’re just not very bright for letting him convince us to go along with his craziness.

campfire

Wedding in the Country

With Chaeli staying with the grandparents, Doug and I went to the Saturday wedding of his co-worker’s. We booked a motel room for the night. Smart move on our part… since we left the wedding after 11pm, it was nice to be just minutes away from our rented room and bed.

Sacred Heart Church - Peterborough, ONThe couple had their wedding in their Catholic church. The ceremony was long, as is typical with most Catholic ceremonies. This one was about 75 minutes in length. We sat at the very back of this massive church (out of respect for their family and friends to have better seats) so it was difficult for me to follow. The father officiating the ceremony sounded a bit like the Swedish chef from The Muppets due to his slight accent, sound system and echoing acoustics inside.

I missed the vows and the announcement that they were husband and wife. :)

wedding decorationsnewly wedsThe reception was held at the banquet hall of their community hockey rink. It was a lovely affair. I enjoyed the decorations – nothing over the top but elegant in its simplicity. Despite the fact that I knew no one there (I hadn’t even had the chance to meet the groom until that day), I had a good time.

But by 10pm, I was very tired and ready to go to bed. I would say I was showing my age but there were people 10-20 years older than me that were partying way past the time we chose to leave (just after 11pm).

So my new theory is that these people don’t have children living with them anymore. They are past that stage of parenting and have gotten a second wind in life! Will this happen to us? When our kid leaves the nest, will we get this second wind? I sure hope so!

date night!I suppose Doug and I did have a date-night. It’s always nice to have a reason to dress up and be out with one’s spouse. When I think about the last 5 or 6 times we had a chance to dress up for a formal night, it always involved Chaeli and our family. Not that romantic. Whether it was for a family or family-friend wedding. Or on formal nights during the cruise we took last December.

This time, we didn’t know anyone hardly. So in a way we were pretty much on our own!

Historical downtown - Peterborough, ONSmoke trout crepes - Black Honey CafeWe slept in next morning (8:30am – that’s a luxury for me) and took our time getting up and getting ready. The motel did have a hot breakfast included so we decided to check it out. It was pretty horrible. But we managed to get down some breakfast sausages, some toast and some questionable egg ‘patties’. We’re pretty sure they were not real eggs. The coffee was so-so. But, we were hungry and needed just a little something to tie us over.

After checking out, we went to the downtown, historical area of Peterborough, which was also by the waterfront. It definitely had a lot of charm. Unfortunately, being on a Sunday and past the summer season, many attractions and stores were closed.

We did find the Black Honey Desserts cafe open and serving Sunday Brunch. Neither of us were hungry but we felt completely unsatisfied with the breakfast offered at our motel. Doug and I shared a beautifully prepared smoked trout and poached eggs crepe. It came with spring greens an the tastiest rosemary seasoned roasted potatoes I have ever had. I limited myself to just several pieces of the potatoes and had only a little of the crepe. But I definitely gobbled down the rest.

We also had two mugs of their delicious, fair-trade and organic coffee.

If you’re ever in Peterborough, do check this place out for brunch. Everything on their menu looked good! The ingredients were very fresh.

Taking Care of Me

selfieAs I reflect on this past, crazy summer, I must admit it was not my ideal. There were a lot things I really wanted to do but I just didn’t have the time (free time) to do them all. And when I did have the little free time that appeared in small doses here and there, I was too tired to plan any of those things (fun things with friends and family).

What I found I needed more was moments of downtime. Lots of little moments. Whether it was spending 30 minutes reading at Starbucks or getting a manicure or pedicure on my lunch break. Whatever I could do.

pedicureThis was a tough balance for me. There’s one thing, even when work and home life is crazy-busy, I prefer to spend my free time being active. And what I mean is, outside of my morning cardio and after work strength training or yoga, I like to be out and about. Especially outdoors. Being stuck under fluorescent lighting 40+ hours a week in an office definitely makes me yearn to be outside on weekends (or even in the evening). So it was a struggle to find that balance of meeting both of these needs that are on the opposite ends of each other.

There are so many hours in a day – how I use my free time can be limited. Do I go for that one hour hike? Or site on my couch and read instead? Most times, I couldn’t do both.

biceps from p90xI’m glad that I kept on working out, though. Even though I’ve been scaling down my workout routine as I do every summer. The above is the very first selfie I’ve ever taken of my results!

Yes, they are small biceps but I’m just happy there’s some definition. :)

Cramming it all in!

As with any summer, this one was no different. The two months went by fast. For my last two weeks, I really did my best to keep my laptop closed (not entirely successful of this but was better than most previous weekends) and made sure to have some fun with my family and friends!

First of all, I made it top priority for Chaeli and I to have a mother-daughter day. We headed over to Unionville Main Street area for breakfast at Starbucks and then I surprised her with a princess manicure at Peace Valley Spa. I just got a shellac mani and regular pedi the day before. So I pampered myself with a 20 minute reflexology session. This is the same place I went to for my belated mother’s day gift with B.

breakfast at StarbucksPrincess Manicure with designAfterwards, we went to the Varley Art Gallery to take in some Group of Seven paintings. It’s a very small collection but still one I like to drop in from time to time. The admission is free with visitors’ choice to donate. I always do. I want to make sure this gallery stays open for these spur-of-the-moment inspirations!

Group of SevenEarlier in the weekend, we also took Hobbes to High Park for some exercise. I actually detest their off-leash dog park. In fact, I have started to not enjoy most except for ones that actually provide a trail. But that’s what’s great about High Park’s off-leash dog area. There is a place (more like a sandpit) to stand around in while your dog plays with other dogs. There’s also, however, an off-leash trail where people can walk with their dogs.

We made a full loop of that trail and then joined up with one of the normal trails to walk along one of their larger ponds before ending up at the zoo on the way back to the parking lot.

Maple Leaf shaped garden at High Parkhigh park pondIt’s become a yearly tradition to have fresh lobsters each summer. We would love to invite all our friends and family over at once but unfortunately, that would be way more than we could afford! :) So each year, we try to invite some different people over. This year, we invited my family to celebrate my aunt’s birthday, making the surf ‘n turf dinner as part of her birthday present.

No one was disappointed! Though Hobbes wasn’t too sure of these temporary house critters.

Maritine lobsters!For the very last day of August, we took the subway down to meet friends for the 2nd Open Streets Toronto event. What a great idea – closing off portions of two major streets for pedestrians only. The event was only for four hours which was, in my opinion, too short. But the organizer had a hard enough time convincing city council to even have this event in the first place.

It is a shame – on a Sunday morning this offers little inconveniences. If anything, it helps bring more business to the stores on these streets. And we really do need a chance to just enjoy the public transit and being able to walk around freely every now and then. It’s a great way to bring the community together!

Open Streets TorontoOpen Streets TorontoOpen Streets TorontoWe ended that evening meeting up with other friends for a walk at Cherry Beach Dog Park while the sun set. The next day, officially the last day of summer, our day was consumed with brunch, lots of coffee, reading, gaming, along with an hour hike thrown into the mix (The Rouge Woodland Trail).

Cherry Beach Dog Parklazy dayThroughout all this, Hobbes shows that while he’s a dog filled with adventure and excitement, he sure does know comfort. A pile of blankets or clothes can easily be made into a nest by him.

cockapoo dog